600 days later: Revisiting the Ryan Kesler trade

Dec 19 2017, 8:15 pm

It has been 600 days since one of the more controversial trades in Canucks history. Then-new General Manager Jim Benning made one of the most important trades in his time with the Canucks, sending Ryan Kesler to the Anaheim Ducks on Draft Day 2014.

Kesler, if you recall, demanded a trade out of Vancouver and used his no-trade clause Dany Heatley-style to narrow the teams to Anaheim (who wanted him) and Chicago (who didn’t). What a nice farewell gift to fans that supported him for ten years.

Benning pulled the trigger on a trade, sending Kesler and a 2015 3rd round pick to Anaheim. Here’s what Vancouver got back:

  • Nick Bonino
  • Luca Sbisa
  • 2014 1st round pick
  • 2014 3rd round pick

Bonino and the 3rd rounder have since been traded, and the 1st rounder has selected, leaving Vancouver with this:

  • Brandon Sutter
  • Luca Sbisa
  • Jared McCann
  • Derek Dorsett

Dorsett was a one-for-one trade for the 3rd rounder, while Bonino was traded with Adam Clendening and a swapping of 2nd/3rd rounders. But you get the point.

The trade, at the time, was seen as good value in a tough circumstance by many optimists. Others, like myself, were disappointed with the return given how late (24th overall) the 1st round pick was.

But nearly two years later, I think we can conclude that Vancouver got adequate value in return primarily because of the development of Jared McCann. Could Benning have done better if he was more patient or was more persuasive? We’ll never know.


Ryan Kesler had good first year in Anaheim. While his numbers weren’t eye-popping, 47 points in 81 games, he helped the Ducks get the top spot in the Western Conference. Kesler stepped up in the playoffs, with 13 points in 16 games. The Ducks also came within a hair of winning the Stanley Cup, losing in 7 games to the eventual champs from Chicago.

This year, after a dreadful start for him and his team, Kesler has 29 points in 56 games. Of course stats never tell the whole story with Kesler, who is a premiere penalty killer and an excellent shutdown centre.

Say what you want about Brandon Sutter, Luca Sbisa, and Derek Dorsett – they have their critics for sure – but the trio provide toughness, depth, and and an injection of youth (Sbisa was 24 when he arrived, while Sutter and Dorsett were 26). Of course, the contracts given out to each player were unnecessary and inflated. I would also argue that the contract the Ducks gave Kesler that will pay him $6.875 beginning next season from age 32 to 37, will be inflated also. But that’s a topic for another day.

Even if Kesler was perfectly happy in Vancouver, the Canucks are better off with the four players they have than the surly centre from Livonia, Michigan.

McCann, who is playing in the NHL already at age 19, looks like a future building block for the Canucks. Though he was taken with the 24th overall pick, his value has most certainly risen since the day he was drafted.

So while Luca Sbisa doesn’t look like a top-4 defenceman, Brandon Sutter doesn’t scream 2nd line centre, and Derek Dorsett is a fixture on the 4th line, Jared McCann is the key to the deal for the Canucks. If he develops as most expect, the Canucks should be set at centre for a long time.

At this stage in the development of the team, the Canucks need a 19-year-old like McCann a heck of a lot more than a 31-year-old like Kesler.

What’s more is that the Kesler trade created a great villain in Vancouver, which should make tonight’s otherwise ho-hum game against the Ducks a lot more interesting.